Switzerland – On-time trains, boats and buses add to appeal
Second of two parts
Another day trip took us to Ballenberg, a living museum show casing homes and daily life activities of various parts of Switzerland. We made it through half the exhibit. There are large spaces between representations of Tacino, the Emmentall and Oberland areas. One can watch wood carvers, weavers, potters, farmers, bakers and basketmakers and enter houses depicting different eras. Had we realized that a horse and carriage could show us the whole park early enough we certainly would have seen more. We had our lunch in an old inn and it was our next to best meal during the whole trip. There were many families enjoying this venue. Children and dogs were everywhere.
Dogs are everywhere in Switzerland. Although many on buses were small, we saw some Bernese Mountain dogs and labs on boats, trains and buses too. Dogs in crates ride free and dogs on leases pay half fare. In Bern, we saw three Scotties being walked down the street. Dogs are on gondolas with you when you climb the mountain and dogs are in the restaurants sitting quietly under the table. All are well mannered. Special garbage containers and plastic bags are located on street corners everywhere. People follow the rules and clean up when necessary. Every morning our neighbors were out walking their dogs before eight o’clock.
Our best meal was enjoyed at the Schadau Castle in Thum. The castle is an architecturally impressive 19th century building that stands on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Thun. It is a pale pink in color and we had lovely service along with wonderful perch done in a crispy coating. A photographer was taking many pictures of a couple in wedding attire. Their Swiss attendants were in some pictures so we guessed that they had just been married. We heard what we thought was Jamaican English being spoken often in this area by black couples. Possibly these are the new emigrants that our guide spoke of during orientation. The Swiss have a low birthrate and are not replacing themselves.
In the same park as the Schadau is the Scherzleg kirches used for weddings only. It was built in 762 with an organ added in 1300. Also in this park is a panorama of Thun in 1800 as painted by Wocher on paper and then placed in the round. The old city hasn’t changed building wise but the mode of transportation certainly has. The painter obviously like cats for they were on rooftops and in windows and dozens could be found as you studied the panorama.
On a rainy day, we visited a museum in Wichterheergut that featured modern Swiss painters. All of the paintings featured this beautiful area. My husband reads and has studied the artists of this period and was very impressed by the collection. There wasn’t a painting that we didn’t wish were ours. We also visited the Mechanical Clock Museum and learned about clock making and music boxes. The guide led our English and German-speaking group for two hours with ease as he explained first in one language than the others. All of the very old clocks and music boxes worked which my husband found amazing. The building was an old wine cellar for the Oberhofen Castle.
Our visit to a farmers market in Thun showed us what the moderate climate with rain even in summer could produce. The local cherries and apricots were delicious. Organic produce is preferred and the twice weekly markets provide everything you could want. The stores have both organic and non organic produce. Fruit from Spain looked good but was hard as a rock. I learned the hard way that the customer must weigh and mark the produce before checking out. The first time I shopped I held up a whole line while the checker went to the produce department and weighed my squash. This made me observe the proper procedure as I couldn’t understand her explanation and I felt like I was 6 years old again observing the way adults act.
When in Switzerland, you have “a coffee.” The tiny cup of espresso or pressed coffee is the best I have ever had. Unfortunately it cost 3.5 SF and there are no refills. My husband loved the trains, boats and buses that are time scheduled so you leave one and walk across the street and get on another. He loved the boat trip on Thunersee and Breienzersee where he could purchase a cup of coffee and then look at the scenery and enjoy people watching.
We have taken planned tours with several tour companies and enjoyed years of elderhostling but would recommend this form of tour for anyone wishing a more relaxed pace. Most of the younger people who traveled in our group and had apartments around the Thunersee spent much of their time biking and hiking. Obviously there is something for everyone in the Oberland of Switzerland.
We did wish that we had been able to talk to more people. Having only a few phrases of Swiss German in command made conversation nearly impossible. The last morning as we waited for a bus, a neighbor observed that we must be staying in the neighborhood and because she had been in the states eight times was able to talk with us. I knew that the Swiss as all Europeans know more than some of us do about our politics and are well aware of what we do that effects them. I wish we had met her earlier because getting to know people where they live and how they see things is most interesting to me. I also wish that smoking wasn’t so prevalent and that young people hadn’t copied our vandals in decorating walls and buildings with colorful graffiti. We were told that those who are caught are sent to a special home and re-educated. Those two things were the only things that made Switzerland less than 100 percent perfect.
Linda Marschall lives in Grass Valley and enjoys travel. She is a frequent contributor to The Union.
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